October 31, 2006
Don't miss this fascinating, creepy, actual true story of Dennis Perrin's experiences ghostbusting:
I pulled out the temperature gauge: 71 degrees. I walked toward Wendy with the gauge still on, and the roomÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s temperature in that short space suddenly dropped four degrees. Just like that...
When I arrived home, my daughter was awake and instantly quizzed me. I told her everything, which didnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t surprise her, knowing what she did about the house. She asked if she could listen to the tape for me.
"Sure," I replied. "Just grab me if you hear anything strange."
She plugged headphones into the tape player, sat on the couch and began to take notes. About five minutes later she ran into my office.
"Dad! You have to hear this!"
Yikes. Happy Halloween.
Only So Many Ways To Be A Frothing Lunatic
I just came across this Charles Krauthammer column in Time from November, 2003:
No one likes us...
Envy for America, resentment of our power, hatred of our success has been a staple...
The fact is that the world hates us...They hate us into incoherence...
The search for logic in anti-Americanism is fruitless. It is in the air the world breathes. Its roots are envy and self-loathing — by peoples who, yearning for modernity but having failed at it, find their one satisfaction in despising modernity's great exemplar.
I realize it's supposed to disqualify you from civilized discourse if you point out the obvious historical antecedents to Krauthammer's weepy hysteria.
Their hate knows no boundaries!
The German people knew its enemies, their hate for the German Reich that under Adolf Hitler had once again become a world power...
We have been engaged in this world-wide struggle for five years, and have again proved our manhood against our hate-filled enemies...
Because they have no stature themselves, neither human nor political, they envy the genius, the unreachable, the creative spirit, that seeks a new world...
In but a hundred years, German industry conquered the world in peaceful competition...That aroused the envy of the British and Americans...Even average newspaper readers are part of the huge army of hate-filled enemies of the Reich...
It really would be easier not to compare Krauthammer's writing to Nazi propaganda if he didn't write exactly like a Nazi propagandist.
October 30, 2006
Back To Analogy School For Paul Burgess
Something I've noticed consistently over the past five years is that America's conservatives either cannot or will not construct accurate analogies. As far as I've seen, this is true quite literally without exception. Some people thought 9/11 spelled the Death of Irony. That didn't work out (on the contrary), but at least for conservatives it sure spelled the Death of Accurate Analogies.
I say this as someone with a longtime interest in analogies. Exact analogies are perhaps the number one tool in the comic writing toolbox, and I've spent decades learning how to produce them. Thus I find it excruciating to witness conservatives give birth every day to hideously misshapen and deformed analogies. "Stop taking the analogy thalidomide!" I want to shout. But it is no use.
This brings us back to former Bush speechwriter Paul Burgess:
Most detestable are the lies these rogues craft to turn grief into votes by convincing the families of our war dead that their loved ones died in vain. First, knowing what every intelligence agency was sure it knew by early 2003, it would have been criminal negligence had the president not enforced the U.N.'s resolutions and led the coalition into Iraq. Firemen sometimes die in burning buildings looking for victims who are not there. Their deaths are not in vain, either.
OH MY GOD THAT IS A BAD ANALOGY. Let's try to make it a little more accurate:
1. Firemen looking for victims who are not there sometimes die in buildings that have been set on fire by the mayor.
2. Firemen looking for victims who are not there sometimes die in buildings that have been set on fire by the mayor, and stay there and continue dying for several years after the town spent $1 billion determining there are no victims.
I invite you to add your own 3, 4, etc.
(Thanks to Stinky Flamingo and hibiscus for getting the ball rolling in comments.)
Worst. Empire. Ever.
Paul Burgess, former Bush speechwriter, has been getting some attention for this recent friendly op-ed:
Friends, neighbors, and countrymen of the Left: I hate your lying guts
I never used to feel hatred for people such as Cindy Sheehan, Harry Belafonte, Danny Glover, or other pop-culture notables who, for example, sing the praises of Central American dictators while calling President Bush the greatest terrorist on earth. I do now...
I have also grown to hate certain people of genuine accomplishment like Ted Turner, who, by his own contention, cannot make up his mind which side of the terror war he is on...
I now hate Howard Dean, the elected leader of the Democrats, who, by repeatedly stating his conviction that we won't win in Iraq, bets his party's future on our nation's defeat.
I hate the Democrats who, in support of this strategy, spout lie after lie.
This is obviously notable for the view it gives us into the, uh, emotional state of the Bush administration.
But there's something else worth pointing out too. Let's take a look at one paragraph again:
I never used to feel hatred for people such as Cindy Sheehan, Harry Belafonte, Danny Glover, or other pop-culture notables who, for example, sing the praises of Central American dictators while calling President Bush the greatest terrorist on earth.
The "dictator" Burgess has in mind is obviously Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. (An article about Sheehan's January visit to Venezuela is here.)
And what's funny about this, and makes me think we have the worst-run empire in history, is that:
1. According to this op-ed, Paul Burgess was "director of foreign-policy speechwriting at the White House."
2. VENEZUELA IS IN SOUTH AMERICA
October 29, 2006
October 28, 2006
I Wish I Could Be Surprised By This Website's Anti-Jon Schwarz Bias
It's really incredible the way this website is biased against me. I keep thinking that one day it will end. But no! This site just goes on and on and on with its bias, shamelessly misrepresenting me and my achievements.
That's why I sympathize with Lynne Cheney, who just said this on CNN:
I shouldn't let media bias surprise me, but I worked at CNN once.
I hear you, Mrs. Cheney! For several years she was co-host of Crossfire Sunday. This is the way institutions express their bias against you: by paying you and giving you a regular, prominent platform to express your ideas.
Gregory Mankiw, well-known conservative economist and former Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers for the Bush administration, has suffered from exactly this kind of bias at Harvard. As Mankiw says:
Harvard University is, by some measures, one of the most left-wing institutions on the face of the earth.
And because it's one of the most-left wing institutions on earth, Harvard gave Mankiw a fancy endowed chair and a job for life. That's how extremist left-wing institutions work! It's disgusting!
When will CNN stop oppressing Lynne Cheney? When will Harvard stop oppressing Greg Mankiw? WHEN WILL THIS WEBSITE STOP OPPRESSING ME?!?
All I know is that I refuse to live in fear any longer. Do you hear me, website? THE TIME FOR SILENCE IS OVER.
Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of [Jon's website].
—Robert F. Kennedy
October 26, 2006
Ask The White House (Seriously)
Partly this is structural, in that there's nothing worse for your career at the Washington Post than asking such questions. But partly this is the fault of us, the teeming masses. There are enormous cracks in the structure we could take advantage of if we could merely get our crumby act together.
One person making an impressive effort in this area is Weldon Berger of the blerrk BTC News. He realized that, incredibly enough, it actually is possible for a blerkk to get someone in to White House press briefings. And he's done just that with BTC contributor Eric Brewer. Brewer has already gotten Tony Snow to demonstrate he did not know who John Yoo is. Best of all, Snow demonstrated this while wearily delivering a condescending lecture to Brewer about presidential signing statements.
SNOW: (Sigh) Look, I know this is part of my job as head coach of the New York Knicks, but it does get tiresome to have to explain the basics to people like you. Okay, here's how the game works: in basketball, each team has eight players. There's a "ball" made of balsa wood that's about the size of a Volkswagen. And every time you head it through the uprights your team gets 1000 points.
But now BTC News has taken it another step, and gotten a White House spokesman (not Snow) to commit to answering written questions on the record. And Weldon is asking for suggested questions right now. In other words, this is an opportunity for any regular schmoe with a good question to address it to the people who sort of run the world.
I'm going to suggest a few to Weldon myself as soon as I have a second to think about it, and I encourage you to do the same. We can't really complain about how sucky everything is without first pushing the limits of what's already possible.
October 25, 2006
What A UnSurprise
Let's take a look again at this conversation from State of Denial between Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson and Henry Kissinger:
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWhy did you support the Iraq war?ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Gerson asked him.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œBecause Afghanistan wasnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t enough,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Kissinger answered. In the conflict with radical Islam, he said, they want to humiliate us. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œAnd we need to humiliate them.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
And here's bin Laden again:
"What America is tasting now is something insignificant compared to what we have tasted for scores of years. [The Islamic world] has been tasting this humiliation and this degradation for eighty years."
I wonderÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Âbesides Kissinger and bin Laden, are there any other sick freaks out there undergoing such bizarre interior psychodramas that they experienced the 9/11 attacks as humiliating for Americans?
"For the first time in my life, I felt myself in the position of the policeman," [Christopher Hitchens] told me. In part, this was a response to America's panic. "Nobody knew what was going on. This giant government, and huge empire. Bush was missing. Panic, impotence, shame. I've never known any feeling like it."
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬ÂNew Yorker, October 16, 2006
I've said it before and I'll say it again: there are only so many ways to be a frothing lunatic.
My Optimism About This Site Is Ebbing A Little
Uh. Is this thing on?
...looking on the bright side, I'm no longer having the aforementioned problem where I couldn't remember how to fix things because the site broke so seldom.
October 24, 2006
I Can Predict The Future
Now that I've gotten the whole
whale walrus penis bone story off my chest, I have two predictions to make:
1. If sometime in the future there's a huge terrorist attack in the U.S. by people claiming they're doing it for revenge for the invasion of Iraq, many American politicians and pundits will say they actually did it because they hate freedom and democracy.
2. Every single one of these politicians and punditsÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Âwith no exceptions at allÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Âwill have either ignored or dismissed the recent Johns Hopkins study estimating 650,000 Iraqis have died due to the invasion.
Boy, will it be fun to be proven right about this! Except for the thousands of dead Americans part!
Why Yes, I Do Have A Story Involving A Walrus Penis Bone
...during a debate on the right of native Alaskans to sell the sex organs of endangered animals as aphrodisiacs, Young whipped out the eighteen-inch penis bone of a walrus and brandished it like a sword on the House floor.
That wasn't the first time for Young and penis bones, either:
1994 -- At a congressional hearing in February, the director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Mollie Beattie, argued with Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, over continued exemptions for Alaska natives from laws protecting ocean animals...Young became angry, grabbed an 18-inch-long walrus penis bone that he had brought along as a prop, and pounded it into his hand as he argued with Beattie.
There's isn't anything funny about this, so I won't even try.
As it happens, though, I have my own story involving a walrus penis bone. Objectively speaking it's not that interesting, but I believe any story that includes a walrus penis bone has a certain je ne sais quoi.
When I was ten I spent the night at the house of my friend Liam. All the adults were out late doing adult things, and in their absence we had completely freaked ourselves out swapping scary stories, possibly including "The Hook." It was a big house, and we became convinced it had already been invaded by criminals, zombies, mermen, and so forth. Thus we needed to find weapons with which to defend ourselves. We quickly located a shovel, but what would the one of us who was shovel-less use?
Soon we had the answer: a walrus penis bone. Liam's grandfather had lived an unusual life, and the various unusual objects he'd acquired were scattered around the house. One of these objects was the bone. It was hefty enough to really lay a smackdown on someone.
I can't remember who got which, but before too long the adults returned, finding us gripping the shovel and walrus penis bone tightly. We put the shovel and bone back where we'd found them. The End.
But...I've always thought it was a little sad no one broke into the house. Because imagine if we'd actually fought off intruders with a walrus penis bone! We would have become legends among ten year-olds the world over.
Also, when I saw 2001: A Space Odyssey some time later, I really understood where the monkeys beating things to death with tapir bones were coming from.
EXTRA: In the years after this occurred, I was pleased to be able to share with my peers the informationÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Âof which almost all of them were theretofore unawareÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Âthat walruses had a bone in their penis. This was a big hit in sixth grade. I particularly took satisfaction in leading those who doubted me to the encyclopedia. Who's laughing now, Waseem Noor??!?
On the other hand, I did get something important wrong: I always told everyone the walrus is the only animal with such a bone. However, I just learned via the internets this is incorrectÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Âin fact, according to wikipedia, it's not rare at all. Even rats and dogs have one. Cripes, life is nothing but a long process of disillusionment.
October 23, 2006
Maybe Henry And Osama Could Get A Room And Humiliate Each Other In Private
"Why did you support the Iraq war?" Gerson asked him.
"Because Afghanistan wasn't enough," Kissinger answered. In the conflict with radical Islam, he said, they want to humiliate us. "And we need to humiliate them."
When hearing this it's hard not to think of these words of Osama bin Laden just after 9/11:
"What America is tasting now is something insignificant compared to what we have tasted for scores of years. [The Islamic world] has been tasting this humiliation and this degradation for eighty years."
Here's the thing: I remember feeling many emotions in lower Manhattan that day, but humiliation wasn't one of them. Indeed, if there were anyone I would have thought should feel humiliated, it would have been the people who revealed themselves to be so stupid and vain and cruel all they could conceive of to do with their lives was to murder 3,000 others.
By contrast, I do find it humiliating that we invaded Iraq, precisely because of what it revealed about our own stupidity and vanity and cruelty. I find it even more humiliating that, even with every advantage, our country has decayed to the point we find it impossible to hold those who made the decisions responsible. Most of all, I find it humiliating to live in a country where Henry Kissinger can go outside without being spit on by hundreds of concerned citizens.
Meanwhile, from a rational standpoint I don't think anyone in the Islamic world should find the Iraq invasion or eighty years of colonialism humiliating. (Though I do, of course, emotionally get it.)
Anyway, I guess it's no accident the CIA is flying around the world wearing masks and forcibly administering enemas. If only we could set up Henry and Osama on a blind date, they might end up so busy we could finally get some peace and quiet around here.
October 22, 2006
We Will Survive
By which I mean, this website and me. The site has a recurring problem that begins with a recurring problem at my hosting company, which makes it impossible to upload things. Somehow that erases the front page of this site. Yet when the hosting company fixes its problem after a few hours, the problem here remains.
The meta-problem is that if this happened every day, I'd remember how to fix it. But instead it happens every six months or so, which is enough time for me to forget and thus have to figure it out all over again. Curse you, universe!
Harris has been, among other things, a stand-up comic, and it shows in his book, in lively phrases and an ear for the incongruous...He is a skilled storyteller, and the play-by-play he provides for his various matches pulls you in like a good sports story.
The one strange thing is the reviewer is disappointed that, as presented in Trebekistan and Ken Jennings' book (reviewed at the same time), "Trebek and his staff are without flaw." Bob makes it clear contestants can't say much about the people running Jeopardy! because they barely meet them. There are actual reasons for this; i.e., to prevent accusations of collusion and fraud. It would be a problem for the show if during his winning streak Jennings had been going on luxurious Mediterranean cruises with Trebek and the people who write the clues.
October 21, 2006
But Missions And Goals Are Of Course Completely Different Things
Q What can you say tonight, sir, to the sons and the daughters of the Americans who served in Vietnam to assure them that you will not lead this country down a similar path in Iraq?
THE PRESIDENT: That's a great question. Our mission is clear in Iraq. Should we have to go in, our mission is very clear: disarmament... it's very clear what we intend to do. And our mission won't change. Our mission is precisely what I just stated.
Bush said in an Associated Press interview..."Our goal has not changed. Our goal is a country that can defend, sustain and govern itself, a country that which will serve as an ally in this war. Our tactics are adjusting."
October 20, 2006
Not In Spite Of, But Because
The people running everything in the U.S. government obviously don't know the most basic information about life on earth. Do they get to their positions in spite of not knowing anything, or because they don't know anything?
Here are some interviews, from a recent Frontline special called The Lost Year in Iraq, about the appointment of Paul Bremer to be head of the CPA:
THOMAS RICKS (author of Fiasco): [Bremer] had worked for Henry Kissinger, kind of respected in counterterrorism from a diplomatic point of view, but doesn't know a whole lot about the Middle East, doesn't speak Arabic, doesn't know the region...
JAMES DOBBINS (former Assistant Secretary of State): What he lacked was the practical experience, and it was that lack of experience that commended him, in large measure, to the Bush administration.
MICHAEL WOODS (co-author of Cobra II): Bremer had never served in the Middle East...we were sending a person who had never served in the Middle East and who had no nation-building experience to be the dominant personality in Iraq. Now, given where the Bush administration was coming from, this apparent lack of qualifications was seen as a plus, because he didn't have the Middle East mind-set of the State Department, and he wasn't contaminated by the Clinton-era thinking. But there were really huge gaps in his rÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â©sumÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â©.
Not in spite of, but because.
October 19, 2006
Worst Congress Ever
Matt Taibbi makes a pretty convincing case that our current Congress is the worst ever.
Yesterday Mike gave his unhappy reaction to Virginia Heffernan's New York Times review of Josh Karp's new biography of Doug Kenney. Today Dennis PerrinÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Âeven unhappierÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Âweighs in:
Heffernan's ignorance[,] coupled with her tone-deaf approach to comedy, is remarkable to witness. It's so unbelievably bad that it's almost beautiful.
You may read it all.
October 18, 2006
The Only Honest Answer Is No
For someone in my shoes, though, hopelessness can become an excuse for not thinking about unpleasant truths. But there was something about Riverbend's quiet despair that forced me to think hard about my own moral responsibility as an American for a genocide caused by America -- because of a war started in my name, paid for with my taxes.
I've opposed this war since it was just a malignant smirk on George Bush's face. I've spoken against it, written against it, marched against it, supported and contributed to politicians I generally despise because I thought (wrongly) that they might do something to stop it. It's why I took up blogging, why I started this blog.
But the question Riverbend has forced me to ask myself is: Did I do enough? And the only honest answer is no.
Read it all.
There are very, very few Americans who can honestly say we did what we should have done, what any basic morality required of us. God knows I'm not one of that few. In fact, when I compare myself to that few, and take a step back, I see I'm standing much closer to George Bush than I am to, say, Kathy Kelly.
At some point I'll have to talk to some of the few and ask them how they managed to pull it off. Meanwhile, as mistah charley likes to say: may the Creative Forces of the Universe, if any, have mercy on our souls, if any.
The Ticking Timebomb
Jim Henley has brought up an extremely important hypothetical situation that all serious people must consider:
LetÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s say youÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ve caught a suspect and youÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢re sure that heÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s a terrorist, and youÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢re sure thereÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s a nuclear bomb planted somewhere in Manhattan, and youÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢re sure that he knows where the nuclear device has been planted in Manhattan, and youÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢re sure that this particular terrorist has been trained to resist torture just long enough that you could never get the true location of the bomb out of him in time. But youÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢re also sure that this particular terrorist is a pervert! And he tells you that if youÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ll let him watch you rape your own child in front of him, heÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ll tell you exactly where the bomb is and how to disarm it. And youÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢re sure that he will, because your intelligence is that good in exactly that way.
I'd like to hear all those people who take a categorical no-raping-of-their-own-child position respond to this one! It really shows up their moral vanity for exactly what it is.
Look: as adults, we have to admit that we're in a new kind of war, one that will sometimes require us to rape our own children. It's regrettable, but there it is. Probably the best thing to do is set up a procedure for government agents to procure raping-their-own-child warrants, so the inevitable own-child-raping will take place only after approval by a judge.
Reviewing The Review
Mike is having trouble posting at his site, so for your enjoyment and edification, here's his take on a recent New York Times review of a new biography by Josh Karp of National Lampoon co-founder Doug Kenney.
A friend of mine, Josh Karp, has recently written a biography of Doug Kenney, the co-founder of National Lampoon magazine. Maybe you know the name, maybe you donÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t: Kenney has never really gotten his due in the mainstream media, partly because he died very young (at 33), and partly because Lorne Michaels didnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t.
Among comedy writers, thereÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s never been any question that Kenney is seminalÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Âhe founded things, gave birth to careers, created templates still in use today. With National Lampoon, he helped create the last great American magazine of the 20th Century. With ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œAnimal House,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â he helped create the modern Hollywood comedy. By going to Hollywood, he paved the way for the explosion of Harvard humorists that has given us everything from Letterman to Conan to ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThe Simpsons.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â A lot of whatÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s goodÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Âand badÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Âabout modern American comedy has some connection to Doug Kenney.
As much as I think JoshÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s book is worth celebrating, I got a sinking feeling when he emailed me a link to a review of A Futile and Stupid Gesture in The New York Times Book Review. The type of comedy that Kenney practiced was subversive in the most threatening sense of that overused word: it didnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t destroy institutions, it repurposed them. It turned places like Harvard into Trojan Horses, spewing out startling new stuff. Maybe this method doesnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t really work; certainly after KenneyÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s death, everything he did began to go to seed. But in its day it was thrillingÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Âand antithetical to smug, tightassed institutions like The New York Times. TheyÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢d hate the book, right?
But maybe not. Today, KenneyÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s cohortÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Âthe people who laughed so hard they made him richÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Âis running our vast machines, even the Times. Tom Shales genuflects in LorneÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s direction every fifth year. KenneyÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s collaborators, people like Harold Ramis, come in for fawning, fat profiles. How would Doug be treated in the Paper of Record? Would his type of humorÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Âthe type of humor I write, the type of humor that dominates our culture, for good and illÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Âbe given its due? And if it did, would that be a signal it was time for comedy to (please God) finally move on?
So I read it.
The TimesÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ first mistake was assigning its television critic, Virginia Heffernan, to write the review. Since TV was the only medium Kenney never worked in, I can only assume the thought process went something like this: TV is inconsequential low culture, KenneyÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s work is inconsequential low cultureÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Âhey Virginia, can you squeeze this in?
We know where HeffernanÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s head is at from the very first sentence, when she name-drops not only Milton but Henry MillerÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s wifeÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Âyou know, the one who got busy with Anais NinÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Âjust so we know what she was doing while we were watching ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œAnimal House.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Then she goes on to dismiss the people who revere Kenney: crass comedy nerds and money-mad Hollywood types, certainly not cultured folks like you and I, dear reader. (Just the people who create vast amounts of our national culture.) Heffernan then goes on to critique JoshÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s prose style, which is fair game, but quickly grows tired of actually talking about the book. If we talked about it in too much detail, you might get the impression that it was worth our time. Which itÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s not. Because itÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s dirty stupid boy humor and who likes that? Certainly not Virginia Heffernan, and you shouldnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t either, not if you want to be taken seriously by people of intellect and substance.
When Heffernan wrote, ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œSo what did Kenney and National Lampoon really change?ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â I perked up. Surely sheÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢d compare ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œLaugh-InÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â to ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œSNL,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â or the family-friendly comedy records of the 50s and 60s to ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œLemmingsÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â or ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œRadio Dinner,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â or ShawnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s soporific New Yorker humor to Dave Barry. Surely sheÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢d mention ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œAmerican Pie,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â or ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œSouth Park.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Surely sheÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢d mention all the little-known people that Lampoon incubated, like John Hughes and Jeff Greenfield (!) and Christopher Guest.
She mentions none of this. According to Heffernan, Kenney and LampoonÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s current influence can be summed up in Kevin Smith movies and a show on MTV2. Nice touch, thatÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Ânot even MTV, but MTV2. Either sheÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s stupid (and we know sheÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s not, because of the Milton reference), or she just doesnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t care, and if thatÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s the case, why didnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t her editor reassign it to someone who did?
I must admit I tuned out after that; HeffernanÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s bizarre and strangely angry conclusions reminded me too much of an old girlfriend who looked down on anyone who didnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t like madrigals as much as she did. In the last, desperate thrashes of the review, Heffernan singles out two LampoonersÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬ÂP.J. OÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢Rourke, and the ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œbrilliantÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â (thatÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s Timese for ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œon my co-op boardÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â) Bruce McCallÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Âfor special praise. In her distorted world, these two fellas are the real innovators while people like Kenney are ephemeral. The funny thing is that, before Doug Kenney, Bruce McCall worked in advertising; whatever your opinion of McCallÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s chunks of Upper West Side whimsy, without NatLamp, he wouldnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t be writing them. And Doug Kenney taught P.J. OÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢Rourke everythingÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬ÂeverythingÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Âhe knows. P.J.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s smart enough to know that, and probably humble enough to admit it, too.
So anyway. Unlike most of the readers of this blog, I know very little about important things; I donÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t know much about politics, or the Middle East, or the War in Iraq. What I do know about is prose comedy, and this review, though a trifle, brought something home for me, for the umpteenth time: I wish I lived in a world where the people held up as experts could be trusted to know what the hell they were talking about. Or, failing that, at least cared enough to educate themselves about their topic. It doesnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t seem like much to ask. Maybe thatÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s the big deal about Heaven.
October 17, 2006
A Short Letter To Pennsylvania
Please do not reelect this man to the Senate:
Embattled U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum said America has avoided a second terrorist attack for five years because the ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œEye of MordorÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â has been drawn to Iraq instead.
Santorum used the analogy from one of his favorite books, J.R.R. Tolkien's 1950s fantasy classic ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œLord of the Rings,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â to put an increasingly unpopular war in Iraq into terms any school kid could easily understand.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œAs the hobbits are going up Mount Doom, the Eye of Mordor is being drawn somewhere else,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Santorum said, describing the tool the evil Lord Sauron used in search of the magical ring that would consolidate his power over Middle-earth.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œIt's being drawn to Iraq and it's not being drawn to the U.S.,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Santorum continued. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œYou know what? I want to keep it on Iraq. I don't want the Eye to come back here to the United States.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
Not IN SPITE OF But BECAUSE
I once met a woman who didn't know the sun was a star like other stars in the sky. She thought it was its own separate category of thing. (In her defense, she'd also grown up in a family which owned a llama and let it come inside the house and roam around.) (All of this is true.)
Now, imagine the U.S. government was filled with people obsessed with blowing up the sun. Then, one day we wake up and read in the paper this woman was now Chief Astronomer of the United States.
Would she have become Chief Astronomer in spite of being unbelievably ignorant about the sun? Or would she have become Chief Astronomer because she was?
Okay. Let's ask a similar question about the people running America:
For the past several months, I've been wrapping up lengthy interviews with Washington counterterrorism officials with a fundamental question: "Do you know the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite?"
Representative Jo Ann Davis, a Virginia Republican who heads a House intelligence subcommittee charged with overseeing the C.I.A.'s performance in recruiting Islamic spies and analyzing information, was similarly dumbfounded when I asked her if she knew the difference between Sunnis and Shiites.
"Do I?" she asked me. A look of concentration came over her face. "You know, I should." She took a stab at it: "…It's a difference in their fundamental religious beliefs. The Sunni are more radical than the Shia. Or vice versa. But I think it's the Sunnis who're more radical than the Shia."
The article finds the same spectacular ignorance on the part of Terry Everett, vice chairman of the House intelligence subcommittee on technical and tactical intelligence. Also, the chief of the FBI's new national security branch doesn't know Iran and Hezbollah are mostly Shia rather than Sunni.
How did these people rise to their positions? Well, they're part of a government run by people who want to blow up the mideast. In such circumstances, actually knowing something about the mideast would be disastrous for your career. Knowing something about people often has the terrible side effect of making you see them as human. And this in turn makes it harder to muster enthusiasm for the whole blowing-them-up project.
Not in spite of, but because.
AND: From a 2004 article in Rolling Stone:
Over at Defense, competent intelligence professionals were purged in order to ease the way to war. Douglas Feith, brought in under Rumsfeld to serve as undersecretary of defense for policy, applied an ideological test to his staff: He didn't want competence; he wanted fervor. Col. Pat Lang, a Middle East expert who served under five presidents, Republican and Democratic, in key posts in military intelligence, recalls being considered for a job at the Pentagon. During the job interview, Feith scanned Lang's impressive resume. "I see you speak Arabic," Feith said. When Lang nodded, Feith said, "Too bad," and dismissed him.
October 16, 2006
I Have A Question
A year ago I remember somebody (Joe Trippi?) was working on an ideaÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Âthat progressives would raise $100 million online and then give it to a presidential candidate who was willing to commit to a simple, clear platform. Obviously this would give a huge incentive to somebody to actually run on progressive ideas.
But...I haven't heard anything about this since. Maybe I just haven't been listening. But if no one is doing it, somebody should, starting RIGHT NOW.
So does anyone know what's going on? I'm assuming the platform would be something like this:
1. Out of Iraq
2. Health care for all
3. Fair trade, not free trade
4. Energy independence/Stop global warming
Speaking Of Baluchistan
...and thanks to TG Gibbon for pointing out the tiny acronym joke Ralph Peters made in naming the Saudi Homeland Independent Territories. Ralph is a funny man.
On The Internets
1. The greatest story ever about the way America's elite live and destroy.
2. Coincidentally or not, some truly interesting thoughts of Sara Robinson at Orcinus about the rise and fall of America's culture of planning...and the incipient consequences of the fall part.
3. Greg Saunders counted up the number of times Bush said "you know" at his last press conference. Answer: thirty-two.
4. William Langewiesche on getting used to a nuclear North Korea.
5. George Soros' recent article about the self-defeating war on terrorism.
Red State Son Fundraiser
Dennis Perrin's regular job is trending downward, and as he lines up new stuff he needs to raise a few bucks to justify the time he spends on Red State Son. Unlike myself, Dennis actually is a productive member of society, so I hope you can head over and drop some money in the tip jar. As a bonus, at the same link there are clips from South Park, the Ben Stiller Show, SNL, and Fridays.
October 15, 2006
Once Again I'm Proven Right About Humanity's Frothing Lunatics
Ralph Peters, a columnist for the New York Post, is one of America's premier frothing lunatics. He famously took a trip to Iraq earlier this year, after which he explained the situation there "is considerably more promising than the American public has been led to believe." Also, morale in the Iraqi army has "soared" and there's been a "surge in the popularity of U.S. troops." This wonderful news has been kept from us by the secular rootless cosmopolitan media.
Recently Peters wrote an article for something called the "Armed Forces Journal." (While it calls itself "the leading joint service monthly magazine for officers and leaders in the United States military community," it's actually owned by Gannett, not the government.) The article explained what REALLY needs to be done in/to the Middle East: a massive redrawing of every country's borders based on ethnicity and religion. Peters' suggested map of the future appears below. Sure, this would require staggering ethnic cleansing, but as Peters says, "ethnic cleansing works."
Now, when I first read this article I made a prediction to myself: this will be circulating among the mideast's frothing lunatics for DECADES. This is standard. The frothing lunatics in any society seize upon the statements of the frothing lunatics on the other "side," and scream incesssantly that these statements represent actual plans with actual power behind them.
GEORGE BUSH: If we don't stop them, Al Qaeda will create a caliphate across the mideast! After all, that's what Ayman Zawahiri said they'll do!
OSAMA BIN LADEN: If we don't stop them, the crusaders will invade our countries, kill our leaders, and convert us to Christianity! After all, that's what Ann Coulter said they'll do!
One amusing results of this is the statements by one side's frothing lunatics are sometimes far better known in other countries than their own. (E.g, that specific burst of Coulter's insanity may well be spoken of more often in Saudi Arabia than it is here.)
Certainly this turns out to be the case with Peters. His wee screed was likely read by fewer than ten normal Americans. Meanwhile, among his counterpart frothing lunatics in the mideast...
NEWSWEEK's Michael Hastings first heard the article being discussed at a dinner party in Amman, Jordan, while he was on his way into Iraq last summer. "I saw it next in a Sunni mosque in Baghdad," Mike wrote me over the weekend. "The imam had actually printed the map and put it up on the bulletin board with an article in Arabic attached explaining it was the American-Zionist plan to shaft the Sunnis." A couple of weeks ago, Mike was on the trail of the Kurdish guerrillas of the PKK (branded terrorists by Ankara and Washington), who are fighting to break off a big chunk of southeast Turkey. He found them holed up in the quasi-independent Kurdish portion of Iraq. "They were talking about the same map," says Hastings.
YES, I WAS OH SO RIGHT.
I love understanding the world, even when this understanding indicates that we're all going to die.
October 14, 2006
Only So Many Ways To Persuade Yourself It's Okay To Kill Others
From a flier warning Shiite families to leave the Ghazaliya district of Baghdad:
In the name of Allah, the most merciful
As a result of the criminal and sectarian behaviour of what is called (the disgraceful) Jaish Al-Mahdi and (the treacherous) Badr forces by killing, kidnapping and deporting the Sunni community (at Mahmoudiya, Rashidiya, ShaÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ab, ShuÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢la and Hurriya), as well as violating the honour of Sunnis and plundering their possessions, the organisation has decided, Inshallah, to return the strike twofold and treat them the same (an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth). It has been decided to deport you from Sunni areas, including Ghazaliya, within 24 hours, or otherwise your heads will be cut off, the same as your militias act with members of the Sunni community. He who has warned is henceforth excused.
From a flier warning Shiite families to leave Southern Lebanon:
To the people of Lebanon
Pay attention to these instructions!!
The IDF will intensify its activities and will heavily bomb the entire area from which rockets are being launched against the State of Israel.
Anyone present in these areas is endangering his life!
The State of Israel
From the same Israeli government webpage where the flier appears:
Concern for the lives of civilians is an integral part of the IDF operational procedure, which requires extreme care to be taken to minimize harm to the civilian population -- often at the cost of operational advantages.
Which is which?
Thank god the schools I went to never gave us books like this. We might have started thinking for ourselves, which would defeat the entire purpose of education.
October 13, 2006
An Iraqi View On Lancet Study
Zeyad of Healing Iraq:
One problem is that the people dismissing ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ or in some cases, rabidly attacking ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ the results of this study, including governmental officials who, arguably, have an interest in doing so, have offered no other alternative or not even a counter estimate. This is called denial. When you have no hard facts to discredit a scientific study, or worse, if you are forced to resort to absurd arguments, such as ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œthe Iraqis are lying,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â or ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œthey interviewed insurgents,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â or ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œthe timing to publish this study was to affect American elections,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â or "I don't like the results and they don't fit into my world view, therefore they have to be false," it is better for you to just shut up. From the short time I have been here, I am realising that some Americans have a hard time accepting facts that fly against their political persuasions.
Now I am aware that the study is being used here by both sides of the argument in the context of domestic American politics, and that pains me. As if it is different for Iraqis whether 50,000 Iraqis were killed as a result of the war or 600,000. The bottom line is that there is a steady increase in civilian deaths, that the health system is rapidly deteriorating, and that things are clearly not going in the right direction. The people who conducted the survey should be commended for attempting to find out, with the limited methods they had available. On the other hand, the people who are attacking them come across as indifferent to the suffering of Iraqis, especially when they have made no obvious effort to provide a more accurate body count. In fact, it looks like they are reluctant to do this.
There's much more. Read it all.
George Bush Explains The Seriousness Of The Situation In Iraq
About 200,000 people have died from conflict, famine and disease...
A team of American and Iraqi epidemiologists estimates that 655,000 more people have died in Iraq since coalition forces arrived in March 2003 than would have died if the invasion had not occurred.
...And more than 2 million were forced into camps inside and outside their country, unable to plant crops, or rebuild their villages...
Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have fled into Jordan to escape the chaos in their country...
Syrian officials say 700,000 Iraqis from various ethnic, religious and economic backgrounds have arrived since the U.S.-led invasion...
Thousands of Iraqis are fleeing the country every day in a "steady, silent exodus"...
Up to 1.6 million Iraqis now live outside their country -- mostly in Jordan and Syria, and in increasing numbers in Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, the Gulf states and Europe.
I've called this massive violence an act of genocide, because no other word captures the extent of this tragedy.
October 12, 2006
How To Keep Your All-Encompassing Fantasy World Intact
When the new Lancet study came out estimating excess Iraqi deaths at 655,000 since the war began, America's right wing knew one thing right away: it was wrong. That was certain.
Unfortunately, they then had to go to the trouble of deciding why it was wrong. And keeping an all-encompassing fantasy world functioning is hard work. Reality is a powerful and remorseless foe. So you can understand why Kathryn Jean Lopez of National Review didn't quite feel up to it, and outsourced the job to someone working on Capitol Hill who emailed her this:
The article below will be a story today, even though it shouldn't...Even Human Rights Watch said the earlier report by these same researchers was "certainly prone to inflation due to overcounting."
Now, the Human Rights Watch part is true. Here's the passage from an October 29, 2004 Washington Post story:
"The methods that they used are certainly prone to inflation due to overcounting," said Marc E. Garlasco, senior military analyst for Human Rights Watch, which investigated the number of civilian deaths that occurred during the invasion. "These numbers seem to be inflated."
Mr. Garlasco says now that he had not read the paper at the time and calls his quote in the Post "really unfortunate." He says he told the reporter, "I haven't read it. I haven't seen it. I don't know anything about it, so I shouldn't comment on it." But, Mr. Garlasco continues, "like any good journalist, he got me to."
Mr. Garlasco says he misunderstood the reporter's description of the paper's results.
Few reporters, apparently, understood what the study actually said. Fewer still called Garlasco after he himself had time to read it. "I hate the interview I did for The Washington Post," he says...."I was on the train, I hadn't read the report yet [when the Post's reporter called for comment]. In general, I'm not as negative as that [Post] report made me seem. This is raising issues that are not heard of much in the U.S."
This is not incredibly difficult information to come by. If you search Google for "Garlasco Lancet Iraq" you'll find Garlasco's repudiation of his original statement in four out of the top five results. (The other is the original Washington Post story.)
So, you might ask: how on earth could this Capitol Hill staffer be unaware of this? I mean, wouldn't you expect someone at the center of power would know the MOST BASIC INFORMATION about a gigantic war he helped start?
Well, you've obviously never constructed an all-encompassing fantasy world. It doesn't matter if there are four pieces of evidence demonstrating the difference between your fantasy and reality. Or four hundred. Or four million. All you need is ONE piece of evidence saying that the world's as you desire it to be. Once you've got that, everything else can be ignored forever.
Still, an important aspect of fantasy worlds is that it's easier to maintain them when there are others inside with you. That way you can all swap stories about how the sky is green and rain falls up. "Did you hear?" you can say to your friend Kathryn Jean Lopez. "Even Human Rights Watch says the sky is green. And Amnesty International just admitted that rain falls up!" Then Kathryn will wander off and deliver this important information to the other fantasy world residents. Best of all, the others may eventually repeat this back to you, without you realizing you originated it. And so you will sleep well at night, certain in the knowledge the sky is green and rain falls up.
Then you will all live happily ever after, right up to the point you finally destroy America.
FAIR Event Tonight In New York
People in the New York area may wish to check out Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting's 20th Anniversary Celebration at 8 p.m. in Cooper Union's Great Hall. Speakers will include:
Jeff Cohen, co-founder of FAIR (and author of Cable News Confidential)
...and more! more! more!
Details including ticket information here.
October 11, 2006
Washington Post's Outstanding News Judgment Comes Through For Us Again!
The Washington Post today ran a story about the new Johns Hopkins study estimating excess deaths in Iraq since the U.S. invasion at 655,000. It was on page A12.
Now, whiny malcontents who don't understand the news business might wonder why this doesn't merit screaming headlines on the front page. But what these whiny malcontents don't get is that Page One real estate is precious. You can't run just any old story there. You have to give the highest priority to what really matters, what the policymakers and just regular citizens in Washington HAVE to know about.
Story online here. I particularly appreciate the cursive headline. Let no one say there's a shortage of ingenuity at the Washington Post when it comes to presenting the critical news of the day!
(Thanks to my DC-area parents for scanning this in.)
Dear National Security Council: Thanks For Not Burdening Us With Excessive Information
You know what makes me mad? When people don't realize I'm busy and don't need my brain cluttered up with lots of superfluous names and dates and numbers. That's why I'm grateful to Frederick Jones:
More than 600,000 Iraqis have died by violence since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, according to a study released today by researchers at Johns Hopkins University...
Frederick Jones, a spokesman for the National Security Council said "many experts" found that a 2004 study by the same group "wildly inflated the findings." That study said the war had caused 100,000 Iraqi deaths.
You see? Mr. Jones could have blathered on and on for hours, naming the specific thousands of extremely qualified experts who came to that conclusion about the earlier study. But he knows I don't have time for that kind of nonsense! All I need to hear is that these many experts are out there, showing we haven't killed any Iraqis during this war. In fact, these very same experts have found we've actually caused several hundred thousand dead Iraqis to be resurrected.
Thanks, National Security CouncilÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Âfor keeping my brain secure!
October 10, 2006
October 09, 2006
Fareed Zakaria Turns Out Not to Be a Journalist in the Mold Of I.F. Stone
In his new book, "State of Denial" [Bob Woodward] writes that on Nov. 29, 2001, a dozen policy makers, Middle East experts and members of influential policy research organizations gathered in Virginia at the request of Paul D. Wolfowitz, then the deputy secretary of defense. Their objective was to produce a report for President Bush and his cabinet outlining a strategy for dealing with Afghanistan and the Middle East in the aftermath of 9/11...
Mr. [Fareed] Zakaria said he felt participating was appropriate because his views, as a columnist for Newsweek, were public, although he has never divulged his involvement to his readers.
"My column is an analytical column," he said, adding that he gives advice to policy makers and elected officials: "If a senator calls me up and asks me what should we do in Iraq, I'm happy to talk to him."
"Once the secretary of state invites you to lunch and asks your opinion, you're sunk."
Happy Birthday, Fellow Weirdo!
Today is Dennis Perrin's birthday, and he's feeling wistful:
While watching "The West Wing" the other night, I caught the episodes where the Ann Coulterish blonde reactionary is invited to join the White House legal team, and her struggles to be taken seriously by the liberals who staff it, when not weathering their unveiled contempt. Of all of Aaron Sorkin's political fantasies, this one actually rang true for me, though, as usual, it's the ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¼ber-good liberals of the "Wing" who ultimately embrace their ideological opposite, showing us once again just how unflinchingly loyal they are to their inclusive values. Sorkin can't pass up angelic displays like that. And when the faux-Coulter informs her rightwing friends that her new liberal co-workers are "patriots"? Oohh. The chill, the spinal chill . . . what better or purer endorsement?
All that heavenly imagery and rhetoric aside, I did connect to this storyline, simply because I experienced something like it, though at a more mundane level.
In the Summer of '92, I was hired as the Managing Editor for New York Perspectives...
The rest of the story, involving the political and personal evolution of a once-hardcore ReaganiteÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Âand his early deathÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Âis here.
Memory Hole Now Back At 100% Efficiency!
Hedgehog at Rhinocrisy reminds us who DOES and DOES NOT deserve to be mentioned when they get buried alive.
Google News search for Saddam 'buried alive' kurds: 191
Google News search for 'United States' 'buried alive' iraqi soldiers 'gulf war': 0
October 08, 2006
It's Not The Killing Americans Part That's Important
There's a pretty good story in the New York Times today about Luis Posada Carriles. Posada helped plan the bombing of Cubana Airlines Flight 455 in 1976, killing all 73 people aboard. Posada snuck into the U.S. last year, and the Bush administration is trying to find to find some nice country for him to go to while trying very hard to make sure he's never prosecuted for, you know, terrorism. Lots of people are mad about this:
Roseanne Nenninger Persaud, whose 19-year-old brother, Raymond, was one of the passengers who perished, recently wrote a letter to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales urging him to brand Mr. Posada a terrorist.
"It feels like a double standard," Ms. Nenninger, who was born in Guyana but has since become an American citizen, said in a telephone interview from New York. "He should be treated like bin Laden. If this were a plane full of Americans, it would have been a different story...
But that's where Ms. Nenniger is completely wrong. If he did it right, Posada probably could have killed 73 Americans with about the same reaction.
It's not that the U.S. government wants us dead. You can't even say, exactly, that they're indifferent. Rather, it's that if you made a list of their top 100 priorities, whether we live or die would be about #96.
So if Posada had blown up a plane with 73 Americans aboard, and it played into one of the U.S. government's higher priorities, then there would be such loud weeping and wailing the heavens would shake. The president would lay a wreath at the grave of each and every one, the New York Times would publish op-eds from relatives demanding JUSTICE. Etc.
By contrast, if Posada had blown up a plane with 73 Americans aboard, but it couldn't be used to advance one of the U.S. government's higher priorities...and particularly if it actually conflicted with one of the government's higher priorities...it wouldn't be a problem. There would be no wreath-laying, no NY Times op-eds. In fact, by now it would be just as forgotten by most Americans as the actual Cubana Flight 455.
Think I'm kidding? Well, foreigners are already welcome to run over Americans with U.S.-made bulldozers.
They're also welcome to torture and murder Harvard graduates.
And it's no problem if they want to kill Americans on the streets of Washington, D.C.
The only thing that matters is whether you kill Americans in a way that provides a pretext for other things the government wants to do. If so, then it's THE GREATEST CRIME EVER COMMITTED. But otherwise, from the U.S. government's perspective, killing Americans is A-OK.
October 07, 2006
New Internet Stuff
1. Jim Hruska, a former Army Ranger and instructor in counterterrorism, has been blurgging for a while at Ranger Against War. Particularly interesting is an article he wrote in 1988, called "Terrorism: Is it War?"
3. One man's take on the Swingin' Bonobos.
4. Jim Johnson has started a site delving into his perspective as a progressive Christian at Disciples from the Left.
5. I've said it before, but now I'm going to say it again in all caps: BOB HARRIS LIVES THE WORLD'S MOST UNUSUAL LIFE. I'm proud to belong to the same species as him.
October 06, 2006
Dennis Perrin's Comedy Friday
Dennis Perrin once again picks through the gigantic YouTube pile of crap and wonders to find the best comedy hidden within.
I Am Going To Help Thomas Friedman Engage In Radical Free Trade
There are many, many funny things about Thomas Friedman. But Dean Baker here explains the funniest:
Mr. Friedman proclaims himself a ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œradical free traderÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â and criticizes the people who oppose a new WTO treaty and the other trade agreements being pushed by the Bush administration...
Mr. Friedman...relies on [government] protection in the form of copyright protection. If there were real free trade, anyone would be able to freely copy and circulate his Times Select articles. They would also be able to freely copy and circulate his books. But, the income of Mr. Friedman, and other politically powerful individuals, is dependent on the governmentÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s prohibition of free trade, so the government enforces copyright protection ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ a relic of the Medieval guild system.
The fact is that Mr. Friedman is a radical protectionist; a man whose substantial income is entirely dependent on government intervention in the market.
Yes. Listening to Thomas Friedman is like being lectured by Bill Clinton on how everyone on earth must refrain from having sex with Monica Lewinsky.
I was in cab in Mumbai when it suddenly hit me: the main problem on earth today is people who try to have sex with Monica Lewinsky. Oral sex in particular! Oh, that makes me SO MAD.
Anyway, to help Thomas Friedman engage in the radical free trade he so craves, I've pasted his column from today below. I may do this with each of his columns from now on, given that I know he would never want the government to intervene in the economy by stopping me.
October 6, 2006
Big Ideas and No Boundaries
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
My rabbi told this joke on Yom Kippur: At the front of the lunch line at a parochial school was a bowl of apples with a sign that read: ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œTake only one. God is watching.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â At the end of the lunch line, after the entrees, was a bowl of cookies, where a student had put up a sign: ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œTake all you want. God is watching the apples.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
Somehow that joke reminds me of the debate about free trade in America today. Right now, with the Republicans in charge, free trade is secure. Yet, while everyone is watching the front of the line, out back in the country, an erosion of support for free trade is under way. The ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œDohaÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â trade talks have stalled, because of opposition by U.S. farmers, and the White HouseÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œfast-trackÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â authority to negotiate free trade agreements expires soon. With protectionist-leaning Democrats likely to take the House or Senate, any new free-trade accords will probably be stalled.
I hope Democrats wonÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t go this route. IÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ve always believed in free trade, accompanied by better pension and health care safety nets. But IÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢m not a free trader anymore. IÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢m now a radical free trader. Why? Because in this new era of globalization, so many people now have the communication and innovation tools to compete, connect and collaborate from anywhere. As a result, business rule No. 1 today is: Whatever can be done will be done by someone, somewhere. The only question is whether it will be done by you or to you. In such a world, the way our society flourishes is by being as educated, open and flexible as possible, so more of our people can do whatever can be done first. It matters that Google was invented here.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThat society which has the least resistance to the uninterrupted flow of ideas, diversity, concepts and competitive signals wins,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â says Nandan Nilekani, C.E.O. of the Indian tech giant Infosys. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œAnd the society that has the efficiencies to translate whatever can be done quickly ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Â from idea to market ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Â also wins.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
The old left thinks free trade is something that benefits only multinationals. In fact, it is now critical for small businesses and individuals, who can now act multinationally. They are the ones who create good jobs.
Last week, I was in Nebraska, where I met Doug Palmer. He and his partner, Pat Boeshart, make insulated concrete forms for buildings. The traditional way to insulate concrete with foam is to make the foam and then truck it around the country to building sites to be attached to concrete. Mr. PalmerÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s company, Lite-Form, found a Korean machine that, when combined with devices added by his firm, can make the foam and concrete together on site, saving big dollars in trucking. Today, Mr. PalmerÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s South Sioux City company imports these machines from Korea, attaches its devices and exports them to Kuwait. His company has an Arabic brochure that tells Kuwaitis how to use the device. The brochure was produced by a local ad agency owned by the Winnebago Indian tribe of Nebraska. The agency was started by the tribeÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s economic development corporation. Midwest Indians publishing Arabic brochures for Nebraskans importing from Koreans for customers in Kuwait ...
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œProtectionism scares me,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â said Mr. Palmer, who has 28 employees. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œIf we put up a moat and keep doing what weÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢re doing, thinking weÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢re the smartest in the world, weÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢re going to die. We have to have that flexibility to barter and trade.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
A few days later, in Silicon Valley, I met Arijit Sengupta, a young Indian-American educated at Stanford, whose company, ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œBeyondCore,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â developed a software algorithm able to detect and reduce errors in outsourced back-office work. When I met Mr. Sengupta, he handed me a card with his logo, which, he explained, was designed by a graphic artist he found online in Romania. His database and Web server are freeware, and he has outsourced his marketing, sales support and patent filings to Indian firms. When I asked, ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWhereÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s your office?ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â he held up his BlackBerry, which takes calls forwarded from numbers in India, Boston and Palo Alto. He and his seven workers already have one Fortune 500 client.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWhen I started this company I never had to think about geography,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â he said. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œAll I had to think about was: Where was the best resource to get something done. ... What you need are the big ideas. That is the tough thing to come up with.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
The way you keep good jobs in this country is not by building big walls, but by attracting people with big ideas ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Â and then giving them the freedom to do whatever can be done with anyone, anywhere, anytime.
October 05, 2006
Our Never-Ending Slew Of Catastrophes, Explained
This is from Who Will Tell the People: The Betrayal of American Democracy by William Greider. It was published in 1992:
The contemporary Republican party seems brilliantly suited to the modern age, for it has perfected the art of maintaining political power in the midst of democratic decay...
As men of commerce, Republicans naturally understood marketing better than Democrats, and they applied what they knew about selling products to politics...
The conduct of contemporary electoral politics is like what would happen if an automobile company decided to fire its engineers and let the advertising guys design the new model. The car they package might sell. It just wouldn't run very well.
NOW WITH PHOTOGRAPHS: Here's a picture from The Boys on the Bus of the youthful William Greider in 1972, covering the McGovern campaign. The guy carrying all the paper to Greider's right (our left) is Adam "Major League Asshole" Clymer.
October 04, 2006
Don Asmussen Continues To Weaken America By Being Funny
Happy 14th Anniversary Of The Bijlmermeer Air Disaster!
What? The U.S. media isn't all over the fact that today's the 14th anniversary of the October 4, 1992 crash of El Al Flight 1862 in the Bijlmermeer neighborhood of Amsterdam?
I'd assumed they would be, since we're so very, very concerned about WMD in the mideast...and it turned out the flight was shipping precursors for sarin nerve gas from the U.S. to Israel. I also thought the U.S. media would be OUTRAGED that the Israeli and Dutch governments lied about it for years, even as hundreds of Dutch citizens grew seriously ill from exposure to the chemicals.
Well, at least Lawrence of Cyberia has the whole ugly story.
Speaking of which, Lawrence of Cyberia is one of the very best bleeerts there is on Israel/Palestine issues. If you're interested in them you should be visiting regularly and checking out the archives. Every single post there is worth reading.
Nir Rosen On Hezbollah
Surveying this massive crowd of boisterous peopleÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Âthe men and women, the teenagers and the small children, celebrating their identity and their steadfastness together with musicÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬ÂI knew this was not the stuff of religious fundamentalism or terrorism. I was struck by how the reality of Hizballah differed from its distorted image in the West. For although Hizb Allah, the Party of God, is undoubtedly of Shia origin, it is in fact a secular movement, addressing real temporal issues, its leaders speaking in a nationalist discourse, avoiding sectarianism and religious metaphors. They participate in politics, compromising and negotiating, and do not seek to impose Islamic law on others. Proof of this is readily available in Hizballah strongholds, where many of their followers are secular, supporting Hizballah because it represents their political interests and defends them...
Nor has the movement shown a long-standing inability to reconcile with its enemies. Most strikingly, in 2000, after IsraelÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s withdrawal from the Lebanese territory it was occupying, the thousands of Shia and Christian collaborators suddenly found themselves vulnerable to retribution and street justice from understandably aggrieved Lebanese. On strict orders from Hizballah, however, the vast majority were not touched. Rather they were handed over to the Lebanese army, dealt with by the Lebanese government and imprisoned and amnestied prematurely, in a move that offended many Lebanese. Nevertheless, today they can be spotted in towns in the south; everyone knows who they are, and they remain unharmed. Hardly the actions of a violent fundamentalist terrorist organization.
October 03, 2006
Bill Clinton's Judgment Just As Razor Sharp As Ever
This is from the recent New Yorker profile of Bill Clinton by David Remnick:
...at Clinton's command, we visited the National Museum [in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia], which houses the bones of "Lucy," a hominid who lives more than three million years ago...as Clinton walked past some of the display cases he started talking about the wonders of the bonobo apes.
"They have the most incredibly developed social sense," he said. "When one of them makes a kill, they share the food, unlike all the other apes." And then, Clinton said, with a laugh, "they fall down to the ground and have group sex! It's a way of relieving aggression!" Such behavior, he said, "would drive the Christian right crazy!"
There wasn't much anyone could say to that, so we walked past the bones and the maps in silence for a while.
Now, I would never say this isn't an important subject for intellectual inquiry. In fact, someday I will write a show covering this exact topic called "Sex vs. Guns."
I also think it's interesting to hear any U.S. president giving some thought to the bonobos and their, um, culture. Still...for several reasons, it might for the foreseeable future be better for Clinton to refrain from musing about this out loud in the presence of people writing articles about him.
Seth Ackerman On Israel/Palestine
Seth Ackerman has a post you should read at Maxspeak! about the shift toward pragmatism within Hamas, which the U.S. media has kept to itself because they know it would confuse us. Seth lays this out in excruciating detail in an excellent new article for FAIR.
October 02, 2006
Dick Cheney Tells America To Go Fuck Itself
Bob Woodward was good enough to include a passage in his new book illustrating exactly why government officials do what they do. It comes as Woodward describes attempts by Andrew Card, Bush's chief of staff, to ease Rumsfeld out:
Card kept pushing, at one point raising the possibility of change at the Pentagon with Vice President Cheney.
No, Cheney said, he was predisposed to recommend that the president keep Rumsfeld right where he was. Card was not surprised.
In private conversations with Bush, Cheney said Rumsfeld's departure, no matter how it might be spun, would be seen only as an expression of doubt and hesitation on the war. It would give the war critics great heart and momentum, he confided to an aide, and soon they would be after him and then the president. He virtually insisted that Rumsfeld stay.
What's the significance of this? Look at Cheney's reasoning.
Did he say: We've got to keep Don there, because we need his expertise to win the war?
Did he say: We've got to keep Don there, because that's what's best for America?
No No No No, and also No.
Cheney's decision had nothing to do with what he thought was best for the country. It was solely about what was good for him and Bush.*
Kissinger famously said that Israel had no foreign policy, only domestic politicsÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Âmeaning that what Israel did externally had basically nothing to do with the real needs of the country. Instead, Israel's actions abroad were an outgrowth of struggles for political supremacy between different factions within Israel.
Of course, Kissinger shouldn't have been so smug, because every country's like that. Still, it's bracing to see how stark it is in the Bush administration: whatever Cheney and Bush have to do for self-preservation, they'll do, no matter how much it screws the rest of America.
* If you spoke to Cheney about this, he'd tell you that he WAS thinking about the good of AmericaÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Âbecause America desperately needs his leadership in these dark days, so anything he does to stay in power is by definition good for America. Of course, Saddam Hussein would have told you the same thing about himself and Iraq.
October 01, 2006
Two peas in one dreadful pod?
Sure, it may be unfair, possibly to both men. But you can't deny this pairing of Bernard Law and Dennis Hastert (by Jeffrey Feldman's Frameshop) has some real visual zing.
(If it's slipped your mind, Bernard Law was forced to step down as Archbishop of Boston for helping cover up the molestation of children by priests.)
Oh, If Only Washington Post Editors Were Allowed To Read The Washington Post
Karen DeYoung is a longtime editor at the Washington Post. Apparently she's now on a sabbatical at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where she's listed as an "expert on U.S. foreign policy." And she's written a new book called Soldier: The Life of Colin Powell.
She also makes me want to rip off my own head. Here's an except in the Washington Post Magazine from her new book:
...[Powell] saw no reason to doubt the CIA's assessment, fervidly promoted and expanded upon by Cheney and the Defense Department, that the Iraqi leader had stockpiles of chemical, biological and perhaps even nuclear weapons, which he was ready to hand over to terrorists bent on destruction of the United States.
Surely anyone who's spent more than ten minutes conscious in the past decade can see what's wrong with this. It's like saying:
...[Powell] saw no reason to doubt the CIA's assessment, fervidly promoted and expanded upon by Cheney and the Defense Department, that the Iraqi leader had gassed his own people and helped plan the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing and the World Trade Center attack in 1993.
I'm a crazy dreamer, I know. One of my crazy dreams has always been that a Washington Post editor who's an "expert on U.S. foreign policy" might know the most basic information about U.S. foreign policy. In particular, it might be nice if she were aware of basic information that's appeared over and over and over again IN THE WASHINGTON POST. Another of my crazy dreams was that if such an editor got stuff obviously wrong, her mistakes would be caught by another editor before they appeared IN A COVER STORY IN THE WASHINGTON POST MAGAZINE.
It's so hard to let go of dreams.
1. "the CIA's assessment...that the Iraqi leader had...perhaps even nuclear weapons..."
Washington Post, October 5, 2002:
U.S. intelligence agencies, in a broad assessment of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction capabilities released yesterday, have concluded that if left unchecked Iraq will "probably have a nuclear weapon during this decade."
2. "the CIA's assessment...that the Iraqi leader had stockpiles of chemical, biological and perhaps even nuclear weapons, which he was ready to hand over to terrorists..."
Front page of Washington Post, October 9, 2002:
Unprovoked by a U.S. military campaign, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is unlikely to initiate a chemical or biological attack against the United States, intelligence agencies concluded in a classified report given to select senators last week.
The assessment was first made in a classified National Intelligence Estimate, which includes the analysis and opinions of all relevant U.S. intelligence agencies, that was given to the Senate intelligence committee last week.
My dreams and I are like a Raisin in the Sun.